As London recovers from Frieze week, the contemporary art set pitch up in Paris for the FIAC (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain). The fair is taking place under the Belle Époque glass roof of the Grand Palais, with over 190 galleries from 26 different countries taking part. The ground floor is abuzz with the usual big names – Perrotin, Goodman, Ropac, Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth – while younger galleries vie for attention on the upper levels.
The run-up to FIAC was marred this year by controversy over the Paul McCarthy sculpture in Place Vendôme. McCarthy’s Tree, a giant green, vaguely Christmas tree-shaped piece, was immediately decried by for its resemblance to a ‘plug anal’. The artist was slapped by a member of the public while being interviewed in front of it, and the sculpture was vandalised and deflated before the FIAC even began. Such a conservative reaction to McCarthy’s sculpture is unfortunate for Paris, which is trying to shake off its fusty reputation when it comes to contemporary art.
Despite the inauspicious start to the biggest week in Paris’s art calendar, spirits are not dampened (if anything, the media attention seems to delight many). The crowds were out in force for the opening of the FIAC, which included a visit from Prime Minister Manuel Valls and new culture minister Fleur Pellerin.
There’s also a host of other major openings to get excited about this week. The long-awaited reopening of the Picasso Museum finally takes place this weekend; the brand new Louis Vuitton Foundation opens its doors for three free inauguration days from Friday, before opening to the general public on 27 October; and the Monnaie de Paris reopens with a chocolate factory installation by Paul McCarthy (there are warnings on the press release about sexually explicit and violent content: it remains to be seen whether Paris can stomach it this time).
This year also sees the inauguration of FIAC’s first official satellite fair, (OFF)ICIELLE, at the Cité de la Mode et du Design and the traditional programme of outdoor sculpture. The Tuileries selection is strong this year, with menacing-looking sculptures by Georg Baselitz and Thomas Houseago, a half-submerged magic wand by Jean-Luc Verna and a wooden pyramid structure lined up along the city’s historical axis. A promenade around the park also reveals works by Christian Boltanski, Niki de Saint Phalle, César and architect Sou Fujimoto amongst others.
So while the nearby Place Vendôme remains sadly bereft of art, the rest of Paris is brimming with contemporary art happenings.
FIAC is at the Grand Palais, Paris, from 23–26 October.
Outside the tents: Frieze Sculpture Park (Emma Crichton-Miller)